COVID-19 has already prompted the NFL to close team facilities, eliminate visits and workouts for free agents and draft prospects, radically strip down the draft and postpone offseason activities indefinitely. Soon, the league will face more significant challenges.
With it being a near-lock the coronavirus forces the cancellation of OTAs and minicamps, the NFL will enter unprecedented territory. Here are 10 issues that will grip teams and the league during what will almost certainly be the most unusual offseason in modern NFL history.
Teams that hired new coaches, coordinators are behind
Franchises with new head coaches ordinarily have a two-week head start on those with holdover staffs. Of those five that changed coaches, the Cowboys have an advantage since they retained offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. The Browns, Giants, Panthers and Redskins all have new OCs (or play-calling HCs) and face the likelihood of not seeing their players until training camp and installing schemes on the fly.
This is not unprecedented; it happened during the 2011 lockout. But various issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic differentiates this year. It is not even known when coaches will be able to return to facilities. These adjustments will make first-year coaching staffs –- particularly the Panthers, Giants and Browns, who hired first-time NFL head coaches -– embark on a challenging process.
Relocating quarterbacks in for unusual acclimation
Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Nick Foles and Teddy Bridgewater will be able to digest playbooks for months in advance of training camp –- a luxury relocating free agents did not have during the 2011 lockout, when free agency was postponed until August. But unlike 2011, quarterbacks changing teams will face difficulties gathering their new skill-position teammates for independent workouts. That will slow the rapport-building time crucial to wideouts and tight ends meshing with passers in new surroundings.
Not only will these wealthy QBs experience never-before-seen issues rounding up teammates for throwing sessions, due to the nationwide quarantines and certain states’ shelter-in-place orders, but travel will be a problem for the lot of these passers and skill talents.
An evolving Patriots receiving corps struggled to stay on the same page with Brady last season. Although the Buccaneers’ Mike Evans- and Chris Godwin-fronted crew boasts more talent, coronavirus-altered NFL rules will truncate Brady’s and his relocating peers’ acclimation periods. It will then be vital that training camps start on time; those workouts will be far more important this year.